Battle with a Twelve

Until that fondly remembered Friday end of May 2019, one thing is clear aboard Gamle Swede: we will meet a Twelve metre class only at the start of the race. Then this classy 22 metre upwind sailing machine, powered by 240 square metres, is gone. No reasonable sailor will take that pack with dull presumption, so we prepare with due realism in Neustadt for the 19th Max Oertz Regatta.

Swede 55 Gamle Swede and Abeking & Rasmussen Twelve Metre yachts Anita at Max Oertz Regatta 2019
Uneven competitors: Swede 55 Gamle Swede and 12 mR Anita

We, that’s three sailing friends from the Sailors’ Association 1903 from Berlin, a fellow from Cologne and me. The chaps from Berlin and I have been on the water together a few times. As we haven’t sailed a regatta together yet, we depart soon, distribute the jobs, practise moving the spinnaker pole and pack everything away again.

We try an eager and bold start. The stately Anita joins the race tamely, pushing her way carefully between numerous smaller boats behind us onto the course. First realisation after anxious glances over the shoulder: Anita goes well, but she is not as badly fast as feared. Humility quickly gives way to presumption: “Let’s see if we can hold her up to the windward mark.”

It works. With clever spinnaker handling, we even save ourselves ahead of over the complete downwind course. Then the white sledge roars up from behind and rushes mercilessly upwind. Entranced by the spectacle, we watch it with a sense of destiny. You rarely see a weapon like this in action.

Samstag bei der zweiten Kreuz im Kielwasser
Second upwind leg: Anita is coming

The second race turns out similar. Good start, first at the windward mark, then the 27 tonnes plough past. But the pecking order is not quite set in stone. The sailing friends from Berlin and Cologne are good. With the new jib by Bad Schwartau sailmaker Arnd Deutsch we are going upwind high and fast. This was seen in the prevoius summer and is now becoming clear at the regatta debut of the new sail.

When seems being green for us

After the big asparagus party on Friday night served by Manfred Miera in Neustadt, I take a look at Anita on my way to bed. It is midnight. Cold drinks, worser stuff and some music boxes are put on deck – for the real party. About ten young people gather in front of the mast.

Solange von Anita viel rot zu sehen ist, ist alles im grünen Bereich
As long as Anita shows a lot of red, all seems being green for us

Before the actual Max Oertz Regatta on Saturday – yesterday’s two courses were just the warm up – we skip the mayor’s greeting. As sailing nerds, we are on the water early again. Anita arrives a little later – today with a jib. The genoa yesterday was too much. The Twelve heeled over a lot. 80 square metres of jib, that’s more than we set altogether. We complete the first third of the classic triangular regatta course 1 – 2 – 3 and the cross to windward mark 1 in front of Anita. Two courses upwind and we are still leading. This time we held the Twelve. That America’s Cup boat class that goes upwind like an animal. The film shows the finish of the second upwind course.

Then I make a crucial mistake after rounding the windward buoy. On my request, we set the spinnaker pole on the wrong side. Further we unfold the 130 square metres too early. Miguel hardly gets the bulging cloth all the way up. First Michael gets his fingers in the spinnaker winch, then I get the little finger of my left hand trying to help him. Anita passes by unmolested, rushes to the leeward buoy, pulls up and drives away. All is blown up. The big boat simply has to cover us. The film shows what happens:

Surprizingly Anita tacks after the leeward mark, heading left towards Timmendorf and gives away her home match. We keep right, sailing uncovered with more wind, nice shifts and decide the upwind leg and finally the race for us. This battle with a twelve will be remembered for some time. And there is another ace: The main could be replaced in the same manner as the jib.

Unterwegs zur letzten Boje der Max Oertz Regatta 2019
Proud boys pproaching the last mark of Max Oertz Regatta with mit Anita safely behind

Fotos and Videos by Vincent Volpe